David Clarke: My dad, Bill Clarke, is really the godliest man I have ever known.
Dan Chun: When I think of my dad, I think of his character and integrity, that when no one’s looking, he was there trying to do the right thing.
Roland Warren: There’s an amazing opportunity that every father has to be a representation of our Heavenly Father in a human form and when you do that, not only will you be blessed, but your kids will be blessed.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: You know, every dad makes a lasting impression on his children, an incredible imprint that’s never forgotten. This is Focus on the Family, with your host, Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller, and today we’re gonna help you see that many dads are getting it “right” these days.
Jim Daly: They are, John, and since Father’s Day is this Sunday, we wanted to honor the contribution dads are making, by sharing some treasured memories from some of our past guests on the program. And many of you know I didn’t have a great dad in my life. Um, he was out of my life pretty early, but there are still good things that you can remember, even if you had that kind of tough experience. We asked a number of authors and speakers to answer a simple question: What impact did your dad have in your life? And their answers, I think, are reflective of that impact a dad can have, and we’ve got more than a dozen great stories for you today.
John: We’re gonna begin with Joni Eareckson Tada, as she reflects about her father relating to her diving accident and being in a wheelchair as she was a young adult.
Joni Eareckson Tada: Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with Joni and Friends. And not long ago, my husband, Ken, was cleaning out our garage, and he came to the kitchen door, holding up a pair of old Canadian crutches, and he said, “Joni, do you wanna dump these?” Well, I stared at those dusty crutches, and my throat tightened, and I said to my husband, “Those are Daddy’s!” The aluminum was scraped, the rubber tips were scuffed, but um, those crutches suddenly brought into focus a flood of memories.
All through my daddy’s 70s and 80s, he would hobble around on crutches, due to arthritis. He had to use ‘em to shove around chairs, boxes. He even used a crutch to ring a doorbell. And on a good day, he could hit a ball tossed to him by a grandkid. Around the farm, we could always tell when daddy was off on a horseback ride, because there his crutches would be, leaning against the hitching post.
Well, when I broke my neck, and when I was in the hospital, I could always tell when my father was coming for a visit, because I would hear, echoing on the hallway tile, click, click, click, click. “Oh boy,” I would think. “Daddy’s here!” I’d be so excited, ‘cause I felt that he, more than anyone else in the family, understood my situation. He understood limitations.
And this is why that clicking sound for me was so welcomed. The Bible talks about the beauty of feet that bring Good News. That even includes crutches. And I think it’s a good lesson for you listening today. Think about it. What – what do people think of you, when they hear the sound of your feet coming?
Well, my daddy taught me such an important lesson. May we always be heralds of God’s Good News, wherever we go. Oh, by the way, just last week, I gave my daddy’s crutches to Wheels for the World. That’s our outreach at Joni and Friends, where we take mobility equipment overseas to give to disabled people in developing nations. I finally had to let ‘em go. And I let ‘em go, because I know that God’s Good News must be released. So, with those crutches, they will be heralds of the Gospel of Jesus, no matter where they end up or whoever uses them. Thank you, daddy, for teaching me such a good lesson.
Kimberly Wagner: Four years ago today, I was spending my last hours with my father. And I am – I am so thankful for how, actually, he prepared me for that day. My dad was one of those men who, he was always there for me – and the difficult days and the days to celebrate – he was there for me. And in the middle of the night, when I was a scared little girl with nightmares, he would be the one that would sit there and talk me through that.
The last 10 years of my dad’s life, he struggled with lymphoma, which eventually went to his brain. So, in his final four years, he went from being a highly intelligent man, strong, almost invincible, to being very child-like, emotional, needy, fearful. So, I promised him all along the way, “Daddy, when it comes time for you to go, I will not leave your side. I will be here for you, just like you were here for me.” And so, in those final hours, God was gracious to give me many sweet days with my dad, as he transitioned from this life to the next. I am so thankful for a dad who was there for me and was an example to me of my Heavenly Father’s faithfulness and love.
Lorie Newman: He always, when I was a little girl, made me feel as though every little thing that I did was important. One Christmas, I’ll never forget that we were headed to grandmother’s house, and it was the first time that we would be away for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, and I was so afraid that Santa would not know that I wasn’t home, and he would leave the gifts at the wrong house. So, I wrote a note, and my dad literally got the ladder out of the garage, and I watched him climb up onto the roof, shimmy across and nail that letter to the chimney. My dad always wanted me to know that if it was important to me, it was important to him. And now that I am an adult and I know a few things about Santa Claus that I did not know then, it makes it all the more special what my daddy did for me when I was little.
Phil Vischer: I’m Phil Vischer, and my father had a huge impact on me. He was creative; he’s a storyteller, very funny, very, very creative and much of my creativity came from him, but when I was 9-year-old, my parents split up, and my dad came down the stairs with a suitcase and kissed me on the forehead and walked out the door. And my life was split in two, the half before my dad left and the half after my dad left. It was difficult for me to be close to people after that, because I was afraid anyone I was close to would leave. But God worked on that and healed that through my wife, who committed to stay with me forever, through friendships and ultimately through the love of God Himself. So that, when I had my own kids, I remember when my daughter turned 9, the age I was when I walked my – watched my dad walk out, and I was still there for her. And I remember thinking that I can heal this for my kids, so they will never experience what I experienced. And every year I’m with my kids, my wife and I have been married 25 years now, is a grace of God that I have been able to give my kids what I didn’t have. It’s a blessing to be a father.
Kathi Lipp: My name is Kathy Lipp, and I’ll be honest, it’s a little hard to talk about my dad right now. I lost him this year on September 5th. And of everybody to come to the Memorial service, my mom asked who wanted to speak. And I’ll be honest, nobody stepped forward, not because we didn’t love my dad, but it was hard to – it’s hard to get up and speak in such a tough situation and also with somebody that I’ve had a – a tough relationship with, but because I’m a professional speaker, I got picked, and I’m so grateful I did. Because in that time when it was hard to really know how to mourn my dad, I had to set out on a mission to, not just to find out the truth, but find out the good. And I was able to really point to a few things that made my dad so special.
He was a man of peace. I can’t ever remember my dad raising his voice to me in a way that was angry. He cared deeply about me. He was a broken man, but one of things I learned in the circumstance is that, you know, everybody in our lives has kind of a different toolbox, and they each get a little different set of tools. And one of my tools from my dad were missing or broken, but he did the best he could to build the life that he wanted for me with the broken tools he had.
So, I really saw that, you know, he was also a man who was passionate about many things and he was an actor and he was a radio guy. And as I started to go down the list of everything that he was passionate about, I saw that, that entire list, with the exception of rock collecting, were all things that my brother and I were passionate about. And so, while it was messy, the big lesson from all of that for me was just to see that God has put something unique and really special in each person that I can learn from, whether it’s intended by them or not. And I got to learn a lot from my dad, a lot of it accidentally and a lot because I sought it out and it’s caused me to want to seek out the good in the other people in my life and call it out in them, because I would say, my – my one big regret is that I didn’t tell my dad enough the things I cared about him and the things that he taught me. And so, I don’t plan on making that mistake with anybody else in my life.
Vicky Courtney: My dad is incredibly patient. I remember when I was in college and he came in from out of town and his own father was passing away – my grandfather – and didn’t have much longer to live and we were driving to go see him. And halfway there, we stopped at a restaurant, and in haste, when we left, I left my purse at the restaurant, but I did not discover it until about an hour on down the road and mentioned it to my dad and he said, “You know, that’s no problem honey; we’ll just turn around and go back and get it.” And I’m sitting there, you know, thinking at that point, I was a new mother. My oldest son was about maybe 9-months-old. And I’ll never forget that, because I remember thinking, you know, that at times I could be impatient with, of course, having a new baby, and you know, but that example that my father set there with patience.
John: Vicky Courtney, sharing a fond memory of her father on today’s episode of Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller, and Father’s Day is coming up. Jim, we have six children, as you know, um, and a daughter-in-law now, and each of these kids is unique. They’ve all – I don’t know how – they’re all very different from each other. But it’s such a great privilege to be their dad and to be able to look back on the times when I’ve been able to pour into their lives, and God’s been able to mold and shape them through me. It’s been a – a wonderful journey so far.
Jim: And John, so often as dads, we can feel like we’re failing, like we’re not doing enough or we’re inadequate. Being a dad is challenging, there’s no doubt, but God’s grace is sufficient for all of us, right?
Jim: Um, we want to provide a little encouragement for you today, as a dad. Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, and he’s written a great book called, Championship Fathering. And it will lift you up in your role as a dad and give you that reassurance that you can do the job and do it well. And with a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family, it’ll be our pleasure to send you a copy of the book as our way of saying thank you.
John: Donate and get the inspirational book, Championship Fathering, when you call 800-A-FAMILY, or go online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Well, we’re hearing about how dads have impacted their children’s lives. These are various comments that we’ve recorded from broadcast guests. And now we’re gonna hear from Cynthia Tobias. Her dad was a pastor, and being a preacher’s kid can be a challenge. In this story, Cynthia reflects on her father’s investment in her life and she gives him credit for the woman she’s become.
Cynthia Tobias: I’m Cynthia Tobias, author and speaker and Nazarene preacher’s kid. My dad, what an impact he’s had on my life, an immeasurable impact. From my earliest times of remembering, he was always very authentic. He was the same person in the pulpit as he was at home. And he reached so many as a pastor and built in me the desire to reach others, the desire to teach, the desire to share. I wanted to be a writer from an early age. And I look at him even now and I realize, you know, I’ve written 12 books. I get to speak to a lot of audiences all over the place. It’s all because of my dad, really, and what he put in my heart from the very beginning and the encouragement he gave me, and the example he set for me my whole life.
And I know a lot of preacher’s kids that we can kinda go either way, but I had so much respect for my dad and loved him so much, ‘cause he was so consistent. And you know, he’s 89-years-old now and I just asked him about three weeks ago, “Hey, dad,” he’s still in pretty good health. I said, “Hey, dad, is there anything else you really want to do before you get any older?” And he looked right at me and he said, “You know what I want? I want to win one more soul.” Wow, that’s my dad.
Paul Coughlin: I’m Paul Coughlin, founder and president of The Protectors, an anti-bullying organization. And I have so many great memories of my father and I really adored him in so many ways. He was – he was an Irish immigrant and very quiet. He treated words as if he would be taxed on them, so I think he said like 12 a day sometimes.
Well, I remember once I was a paperboy in Southern California and this one elderly couple said that I broke their window when delivering newspapers, and there’s just no way that’s gonna be the case, and I was just heartbroken and scared to death and thought I was gonna lose my route and all – that I’d have to pay for the window. My father, who was a painter, a house painter, worked very hard, brought me to this elderly couple’s house, apartment. And we looked at the window and went inside and I just remember it being really a kind of very scary affair for me. And my dad, he did this – we were leaving, and he does this kind of Columbo second take and he looks back and he looked at the window and he said in his Irish brogue, “It’s broken from the inside.” And I remember – I remember him defending me in this really, with this quiet strength. He was – he never felt like he had to yell to get his point across, but he was my defender that day and he, in my mind, he grew to be 8 foot-tall and I just really appreciated it.
Carolyn McKinstry: I have four brothers, and the notion of trying to raise four young men and two daughters, but to raise those four young men in a way that they don’t get in trouble with the law, or that they’re not locked up, to inspire them and encourage them in such a way, that they want to grow up and do some meaningful things in this life, you know, to make a contribution was a tremendous job. And all of my brothers are very gracious men today. They all cook, they all clean house, and they are – they grew up to be like my dad.
Dan Chun: I remember for the longest time, I would ask my dad if he could play football with me in the backyard. I wanted him to punt the football to me, and then I would catch it and we would throw the football at times. And so, he did come out, and he punted the ball and threw it in the hot sun in Hawaii. And later, my mother said, “You know, you shouldn’t ask your dad to do that. You know he’s asthmatic. You know he’s much older, ‘cause he’s 40 years older than you. And I was touched by, that my dad would do anything it would take to spend time with me, to play with me, even though his health wasn’t the best, and he would go out there and do something that was strenuous for him at that time, due to his health. And so, I was always impressed with dad’s love for me to do that.
Lysa TerKeurst: I’m Lysa TerKeurst with Proverbs 31 Ministries and I had a very difficult relationship with my dad and honestly, it wound up being that my dad and I just – our relationship fell apart and he decided that he didn’t really want to have any kind of relationship with me. This was so hard because heart of a little girl longs to have a connection with her daddy, but that was just not gonna be possible for me with my dad.
And so, for years I really grieved that and so, it just deepened my sense of rejection and it was so difficult. So, one day, I was praying to the Lord, and I just said, “God I have to have some kind of healthy perspective, because this is hurting my heart over and over and over again and every time someone mentions something with their dad, it’s a hurtful reminder of what I don’t have with my dad. And Lord, if You could just give me one good memory, so that every time the topic of dads came up, that I could intentionally make my brain focus on that one good memory with my dad. That would be such a gift.”
And then one winter morning I woke up, and I was looking outside and there were some icicles that formed outside my kitchen window and suddenly, God gave me the gift of remembering a very sweet memory with my dad and it’s one now that I treasure so much and it was the memory that I grew up in Florida. And I – every winter I would beg God for snow, but we lived in Florida, so it really wasn’t realistic. And then one night it was gonna get cold enough that if there was the right amount of precipitation that it would snow, but of course, there was no moisture in the air, so even though it got cold enough for there to be snow, there was no snow in the forecast. And my dad that night after I went to bed, he went out into the garage and he got our old rusty sprinkler, the kind that you would hook up to your hose and that would go back and forth and back and forth. And he set it up in backyard. It formed this beautiful icicle winter wonderland and so, that next morning, I remember he walked in my room. He said, “You know how you prayed for it to snow. You might want to go check out the backyard.
And I remember I got up and ran out into the backyard and I stood there and I looked up into the trees and there was this beautiful winter wonderland. And I just remember thinking, you know what? I know my dad. He doesn’t have the capacity to say that he loves me and oftentimes he says words that are hurtful to me, but that day, standing in my backyard full of icicles, I knew deep down in my heart that, that was such an act of love. My dad did love me. My dad had broken places in his heart that didn’t allow him to be the kind of father I wished he would be, but that was a sweet memory.
And so now, when I look back on my childhood, I make myself remember that special night with the old rusty sprinkler and a dad who thought enough of his little girl to go and set the sprinkler up and create an icicle wonderland for me. And so, I can think back on my dad, and I see, it’s a small legacy, but it is a beautiful one, even if it was just one night, I know that somewhere in my dad’s heart, he loved me.
John: Some tender recollections from Lysa TerKeurst, as we wrap up a series of Father’s Day comments from some Focus on the Family radio guests that we’ve had on in these past months and years, and we have one more story to share in just a moment.
Jim: John, with Lysa’s story, my heart breaks for her that this is one of the few, as she said, maybe the only positive memories that she has of her dad. That’s such a thin basket to lean into and that breaks my heart. When I was young, my dad broke many promises and I don’t have many stories either. But this one particular time, I remember I was turning 7 years old, and he was gonna bring me a baseball mitt, but he never showed up – equal to feeling that disappointment that I didn’t matter enough to him that he would keep that promise, was my friend, Ricky, who was at my little birthday party. There were only two or three boys there, and he and I ran to the curb every 15, 20 minutes to look for my dad together. And I think the wound, it’s like the dagger was in, because he didn’t show, and then the twisting of the dagger was the embarrassment that Ricky, my friend, was there to see my grief every time I went to the curb and there was no dad.
And – but to this day, with that sad memory, I also have, like Lysa, a good memory and it also related to baseball. I can remember years later, after my mom and dad divorced, I went through foster care. I lived with my father again for one year. I was 11 at the time, and he promised to take me to a Dodger-Reds game and I was so excited. I loved baseball. I was so into it. And I was in sixth grade, and I remember we ran to catch the bus with my sister, and somebody made us late, I can’t remember who. It wasn’t me, and as we got to the bus stop, the bus was pulling away already and my dad probably just looked at my face and thought the disappointment was just overwhelming. And he hailed a cab, and we lived in San Gabriel and Dodger Stadium was probably 20 miles away, so it was a long cab drive in that day and he didn’t make that much money. I think he spent probably about a third of his salary getting us to Dodger Stadium. And that meant the world to me, because he did, like Lysa’s father, he went out of his way at that moment, when he felt my pain to say, “Okay, I get it. Let’s get this thing done. And we had a great night and that’s probably one of the best memories I have of him that night – Dodgers versus Reds – and – and my dad.
John: Well, if like Jim and Lysa TerKeurst, just a few moments ago, you had a really challenging life growing up and didn’t have that connection with your dad, please know that here at Focus on the Family, we want to help you. We want to offer some encouragement and we have caring, Christian counselors here to do that. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: And John, I’m sure some are wondering, “You don’t know my dad.” Let me encourage you to reach out to your father, even if it’s always been negative and even if perhaps it’s gonna be negative again. You never know how God will use that. And I want you to hear why this weekend, Father’s Day, may be the best time to make things right and to illustrate it, I want to go to a story of Dennis Mansfield. This is 20 years ago, when his father came to visit him on Father’s Day weekend, and it ended up being the turning point in their relationship.
Dennis Mansfield: For the first 39 years of my life, my relationship with my father was terrible. I hated this man. He gave me no reason to love him. And then as I grew in to my adulthood, I lost hope in ever having it, never having a relationship. But then I made a decision when I was 39 to honor my father. I wrote a tribute to him, and when I read it to him, it was as if it absolutely broke something in the heavenlies, and when that happened, the practical reality of it was that my dad embraced me, he hugged me and said he was sorry; could we start again?
What hope that gave me! To have the reality, the understanding that there was still time to have a relationship. And from that point on, for 18 years, he and I sought each other out. We would call each other; we would visit one another. I remember coming to where he lived in Florida and sitting on the beach with him and just asking him, “Tell me what life was like before you met my mom. Tell me about life.” And it was fantastic. We laughed; we – we held each other; we joked; we went to the movies. It was the best of the best, coming from the worst of the worst. Yep, that was my reality with my dad, based on establishing hope in my life, and I would say to you, it’s never too late. Reach out; reach out to your father.
Jim: As you heard Dennis say, don’t wait to make things right with your father. Perhaps both of your hearts have hardened over the years and the embarrassments, like what I felt, and all the others that you’ve heard, that rejection, that lack of love. Let me just say it again, don’t wait. Let the Lord use this opportunity, hopefully, to break that crust on your heart and your dad’s heart.
John: And again, we’d be happy to pray with you. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller, thanking you for joining us and hoping you have a great weekend. Please plan to be with us on Monday. We’ll be helping you train your son to be a confident young man, as we provide more trusted advice to help your family thrive.